Morphine is a highly potent narcotic pain reliever that is derived from one of three classes of opioids. Though a true medical allergy to morphine is rare, there are some people who are allergic to morphine and many others who suffer severe adverse side effects from morphine. Typically, morphine is prescribed to manage moderately high to very high levels of pain such as following surgery or a serious injury. For people who are either allergic or suffer severely adverse reactions, doctors can provide a morphine alternative.
There are three different classes of opioids: phenanthrenes, phenylpiperidine, and phenylheptane. Morphine, along with codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone all belong to the phenanthrenes class. As a morphine alternative, a patient may be prescribed a drug from another class of opioids, such as fentanyl, which is from the phenylpiperidine class. Often times, a patient who suffers adverse reaction to morphine or codeine will not exhibit the same symptoms from a drug in one of the other opioid classes.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also a morphine alternative. A patient who has exhibited a true allergy to opioids can have their pain managed with NSAIDs. Ibuprofen is an example of a NSAID that can help control pain. Acetaminophen is another non-narcotic analgesic that can be used as a morphine alternative. The problem with NSAIDs and other non-narcotic pain relievers is effectiveness. While they can be very effective at managing mild to moderate pain and are often well tolerated, they can be very ineffective at managing severe pain and can be toxic in high doses.
In most cases, when a doctor seeks a morphine alternative for a patient, they evaluate prior medical history and any previous effects of morphine. In many cases, adverse reactions are related to dosing rather than the drug itself. In the event that controlled dosing of morphine is ineffective, a switch to a drug in another class often relieves the problem.
If you are concerned about prior experiences with morphine or other opiates and are scheduled for surgery, talk to your doctor beforehand about the various methods of controlling pain post-procedure. If you have been prescribed a narcotic pain reliever for acute or chronic pain and believe you have an allergy, call your doctor immediately.